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Carroll County Schools ban political flags on property including pride flags

A student testifies about the need for pride flags in Carroll County schools
Posted at 6:18 AM, Jun 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-09 14:14:05-04

WESTMINSTER, Md. — The Carroll County School Board has voted to ban the display of certain flags, including pride flags, on school property.

The board voted four to one Wednesday night, with the student representative also voting against the policy. Many people testified against the policy.

It bans flags that represent political symbols.

Students are still allowed to wear or show materials like pride flags on their clothing.

This issue came up several months ago when a parent group in Carroll County expressed concerns about pride flags being donated and displayed inside classrooms.

The only flags permitted on school property are the American, Maryland, Carroll County flags, and those related to student achievement, sports banners and other nations.

Student representative Emilie Tedeschi voted against the policy, saying:

There is a mental health crisis and we can't ignore this, and we need to further look into the actual reasoning behind why people are so desperate to have flags within the classroom... Why are our students pleading for our help so desperately that they need a flag in order to symbolize that they're acepted within their own school system?

She wondered what policy would we put in place "so this issue does not continue of political politicization, bullying, harassment... The issue is beyond just a flag. There's a larger issue as to why this is becoming so predominant and polarized."

Schools superintendent Steven Lockard said he was concerned about the need for a flag policy, and said he did not think it was necessary.

Board member Donna Sivigny agreed with Emilie that the school system needs to solve the root problem, which is the bullying and harassment. She suggested trying to launch a kindness or unity program - "like, let's stop with the divisiveness and the labels and excluding folks."

She did say she did not want classrooms to feel like they are not a safe space.

The school system's attorney noted that this only bans flags on school property. It does not alter the dress code, which means students and staff would still be able to wear pride symbols. (Carroll County Public Schools did ban the Confederate flag years ago, including on student clothing.)

Board member Marsha Herbert, meanwhile, said:

It is very upsetting on both sides, it is distracting, and we need to move forward.

Board member Patricia Dorsey said she loved the idea of coming up with a unity message, and noted that the stories from minority students are "hearbreaking."

"We've got students who are saying see me, 'Look at me for who I am, accept me for who I am, and then we can move forward,'" she said.

But member Tara Battaglia - who noted the board "got a crap-ton of emails" on the issue - said the school board already passed a bullying policy, but it's not the board members' job to go to schools and enforce those policies.

She also said she feels students with disabilities "are the most marginalized" and "don't have opportunities, basically, out in the real world," but they don't have a flag.